Mat Rempit

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjXbgEkPTy0 425 349]

Just when you think humanity can’t get any dumber, a mat rempit speeds by you on the freeway and you suddenly realize that there is truly no limit to the depths of human idiocy.

Mat rempit are Malaysia’s weird cult of outlaw motorbike daredevils. Bands of these rebel bikers zoom through freeway traffic performing insanely dangerous stunts with little or no regard for others on the road. These boneheads crave acknowledgement – psychologists would have a field day with them.

Wherever you drive in Malaysia, mat rempit race by lying on their seats in a pose reminiscent of superman without a brain. The seriously challenged prefer to stand on their seats. Yikes! I personally don’t care if they kill themselves – I just don’t want to have to watch it, or worse, have them take me with them in a massive freeway pile-up.

While such activities are illegal in Malaysia, estimates of as many as 200,000 mat rempit in the country mean Continue…

Kuala Lumpur

Every visitor seems to love Kuala Lumpur. The city is a cultural and architectural melting pot, a medley of Indian, Malay and Chinese influences. Temples, mosques and churches are squeezed in between futuristic highrises, colonial mansions and fancy mega-malls. And then there’s the scrumptious food and the colorful street markets at every turn. What’s not to love about KL?

Gay in Malaysia

The fact that June is LGBT pride month in the United States is making me reflect on the (in)equality of gays and lesbians in other parts of the world. As a gay traveler, I’m always hyper-aware of countries where I could be punished simply for who I am.

Malaysia is one of those countries where homosexuality is illegal. The dual legal system which applies both secular law to the population at large as well as Islamic law to the Muslim population can make life quite difficult for the Muslim LGBT community here. In addition to being punished in the Malaysian civil court, gay Muslim Malaysians also have to face the Sharia court. Penalties for being gay range from fines to imprisonment to caning. It’s a scary thought.

To learn more about the realities of life for the GLBT community here, I sat down with 33-year old Anuar, the gay Malaysian owner of our guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur. The interview revealed some surprising realities for gays and lesbians living in Malaysia. Continue…

The Taxi Mafia Strikes Back

Apparently, it takes way more than magnificent skyscrapers and glitzy malls to make a modern country. Five minutes after our arrival in Kuala Lumpur at the Putra bus station, we came face to face with the city’s notorious taxi mafia making it quite clear that part of Malaysia is still quite unapologetically third world.

Although all taxis have a painted statement on the doors that the meter MUST be used and no alternate prices are acceptable, the smirking mafiosi insisted on ridiculously inflated rates. When we pointed out the meter requirement, the self-appointed local boss Continue…

Petronas Towers

If you visit Kuala Lumpur, you have to make the architectural pilgrimage to the city’s world-famous Petronas Towers. At 451.9 m (1,483 ft), Malaysia’s beautiful twin towers reigned supreme from 1998-2004. But after Taipei 101 and now Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which dwarfs every building on the planet, these beauty queens have long lost their title.

Don’t feel too bad for them, they still remain the tallest twin towers and the dramatic Sky Bridge is the highest such structure in the world, so those who love superlatives should be satisfied. They’re so impressive that we thought they merited one of our 360 panoramic views.

Unlike other skyscrapers around the globe, the focus here is walking across the Sky Bridge rather than zooming up to the upper viewing deck. If you want to walk across the bridge, which is not truly fixed to the buildings but rather designed to allow movement (yikes), you need to get to the towers at latest 8 AM in the morning to line up for tickets. (7 AM would be a safer bet.) Be warned that your actual assigned time to visit the bridge might be much later in the day, so don’t plan on moving on too quickly.

Tickets to walk across the Sky Bridge, which are listed as free in many guidebooks, now cost 10 ringgit. In addition, you are tortured with a video on the importance of Petronas and the petrochemical industry, a major snooze-fest. Visitors who want to go to the viewing deck on the 82 floor (still not the top) pay 40 ringgit. A more expensive premium trip is also available including lunch.

Mountain Gorilla Adventures

What’s the best thing we have have ever done in our travels? It’s a question we are asked all the time. Most people would probably guess that such an absurdly broad question would be almost impossible to answer. In reality, it’s quite easy. The most amazing thing we have ever done is visit the mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains of what was then called Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). It’s the best thing we have ever done and will surely remain the best thing we have ever done. At least in my eyes. As we head to Borneo in the hope of spotting orangutans in the wild, we can’t help but flash back to another millennium and reflect for a moment on a very different age in travel.

The year was 1994, Thomas and I were in Uganda halfway through an 18-month overland trip from Germany to South Africa and the genocidal atrocities sweeping across Rwanda were just coming to an end. Bodies were washing up along the shores of Lake Victoria and waves of refugees were streaming over the border into neighboring Zaire, one of the most dysfunctional countries in the world at the time. Bizarrely, that moment, as insanely dangerous as it was Continue…

Driving Mr. Lazy

Well that’s picturesque, a bulldozer sitting right in the middle of your tropical beach!!! I know what you’re all thinking, Is that to clean up all the cigarette butts?

No, as we all know, some like nothing more than to show up in their Porsche at a fancy restaurant. Others, like the construction workers on Pulau Perhentian, get the same kick out of driving their bulldozer down the beach through a minefield of baking tourists to their favorite lunch shack. Honestly, couldn’t they have walked those 100 meters? I guess, it’s all about having horse power over others (even if they’re passed out on the sand drooling over their sunburned bodies).

Europeans and Their Butts

I’m absolutely disgusted with my fellow Europeans. Why is it that they can’t pick up their unsightly butts after a lazy day on the beach? Is this too much to ask for? Call me anal, but discovering a bunch of cigarette filters while running my fingers through the fine, white sand simply makes me fume.

Isn’t it slightly ironic that many of my fellow Germans are so environmentally conscious, yet they readily pollute beautiful beaches, amazing national parks or mind-blowing monuments with their cigarette butts? Somehow, they don’t consider them trash. But Germans are not the only ones. Other European travelers are just as bad. The above butt shot is a sad reminder of what many of the touristy beaches look like. From Khao Lak and Krabi in Thailand to Perhentian and Langkawi in Malaysia, the beaches are full of Europeans AND cigarette butts. A coincidence? I think not.

Yes, I feel strongly about cigarette butts. Often, I either pick them up or butt heads with those reckless buttheads who throw them away. In fact, I have quite a history when it comes to defending butt-free zones Continue…